Last October, we shared with you news that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) halted a research project aimed at examining the behavioral and biological effects of nicotine in squirrel monkeys.
We are pleased to tell you that the FDA has permanently ended this study and that 26 squirrel monkeys will be placed in a permanent sanctuary home.
You may recall that the research was initially put on hold after FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb received a letter from renowned primatologist Jane Goodall expressing that she was disturbed that “shameful” and “cruel and unnecessary” nicotine addiction experiments were being performed on the monkeys. The research aimed to see how squirrel monkeys addicted to nicotine reacted to decreasing nicotine levels.
Four monkeys died since the studies began in 2014.
Since the project was suspended, primate veterinarians and animal-care professionals conducted two site visits at the research facility where the studies took place, the National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) in Arkansas, and reviewed documents outlining the procedures related to the study.
According to Dr. Gottlieb, “the team’s initial review of the NCTR study raised several concerns, including a generalized lack of adequate oversight that could lead to similar issues for other protocols and procedures, as well as several repeated reported deficiencies that occurred under the third-party animal welfare contractor used during the study.” As a result, the study was permanently terminated and the animals will be placed in a sanctuary and provided appropriate long-term care.
Dr. Gottlieb said the agency would be taking additional steps to strengthen its animal program, including:
- directing an independent, third-party investigation of the FDA’s animal research programs to identify any remaining or future issues regarding the animal welfare program;
- establishing a new Animal Welfare Council to “advise the agency on its approach to animal welfare issues and ensure alignment of animal studies with the agency’s mission”; and
- reaffirming the FDA’s commitment to the “3 R’s” (refinement, reduction and replacement) of animal use by working to accelerate the adoption of animal-free alternatives.
Dr. Gottlieb noted that “the agency is optimistic that cultivating these types of new technologies can continue to reduce the need for animal testing.”
NAVS applauds the FDA’s decision to terminate this controversial primate study and will keep you updated on whether the additional steps the FDA is taking to strengthen its animal program result in improved animal welfare.